Good morning, everyone!
Welcome to our 32nd online service.
We hope and pray that it is a blessing to you!
We are now worshiping both at home and in person. We will continue to post Sunday services indefinitely and want you to stay safe! Mary and Joanna are working mostly from home. Tanae is updating our Facebook page, while Rebecca is in charge of our Instagram page and Jack has adopted our Twitter account. Every day we add a new post right here on the website that automatically pops up on Facebook and Twitter as well. If you missed any of this week’s posts, just scroll down to see them!
Our Thrift Shop is open Saturdays only this summer; please contact Tracy to help on Saturdays or anytime during the week. Wednesday morning Bible study (led by Rich) meets at 10 a.m. and Wednesday evening Bible study (led by Steve) at 7 p.m.; if the weather is nice we will meet outside.
CALL TO WORSHIP
God watches over us.
CHRIST WALKS BESIDE US.
The Holy Spirit surrounds us.
GOD IS EVERYWHERE.
IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE GOD:
WHEN WE FEEL FAR AWAY FROM YOU,
OPEN OUR SENSES TO YOUR PRESENCE,
AND REMIND US THAT YOU ARE NEAR. AMEN.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE: Genesis 21:19, New International Version
God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
OPENING SONG: “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” by The 4 Lees
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)
Lord of all creation, give us the grace to see your hand in all that transpires. Even though we will never understand all things in this life, help us to trust that your plan continues to unfold and that your blessings are never-ending. Grant us the peace of children, protected by their loving parent, so that we are able to sleep each night and face each day with courage and joy.
Bless Tanae and Anthony and Tanae’s mother Amy in their time of grieving. We thank you for Tadao’s life on earth and his new life in heaven. Comfort and console those who remain in this life, and draw them closer together.
We thank you for the life of Chris Pendergast, the founder of ALS. After decades of beating the odds here on earth, he has arrived in a place of joy, fully restored, better than he has ever been. We thank you for his courage and his witness. Be with all who miss him today, and help his legacy to continue to grow.
Bless Marty, Eleanor and Janet as they recover from surgery. Be their strength and their healing grace. Grant them the patience and fortitude for the road ahead. Be with Liz and Barbara throughout their chemo treatments; reduce the side effects, so the treatments may continue as scheduled. Continue to surround them with earthly and spiritual love.
We pray for others in our church family who are going through times of need: for Amy, Pat, Jim, Sue, Joan, Lois, Dannie, Kathleen, Lily, Ken, Bunny, Dawn, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Paul, and Ruth; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.
We come to you now in silent prayer …
Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.
SONG: “So Much Grace” by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser
SCRIPTURE LESSON: Acts 17:26-28, Good News Bible
From one human being God created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children.’
SUNDAY SERMON (when clicked, the video turns right-side up)
Note: I speak really fast in this one! A reworked print version is below for those who … want … a … slower … sermon. 🙂
In the midst of all the bad things that are going on, there are a lot of good things that we don’t notice. This happens all the time in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Hagar is crying because she’s in the desert and has run out of water. God opens her eyes and she sees a well that was right next to her the whole time. Later, Balaam is so upset that his talking donkey is sassing him that he doesn’t see an angel blocking his path. In the New Testament, two men are walking to Emmaus after Jesus has been killed, pouring their hearts out to a stranger about how sad they are ~ not noticing that they are talking with Jesus!
We sing at least three hymns that address this topic: “Open My Eyes, That I May See,” “Open Our Eyes, Lord” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”
God is always near, even when we don’t see him. Paul writes, “in him we live and move and exist; and that while we look and feel around for him, “he is not actually far from any one of us.” But not everyone notices. Proverbs 17:22 reads, “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time” (Good News Bible). So for the rest of the sermon, I’ve adopted a character that is part Eeyore, part Grinch and part Lewis Black. I figure everyone else is complaining about how bad things are, but I like to be different, so I’m going to complain about how good things are. I hope you enjoy it!
The weather has been so nice lately it’s been irritating. We just had the warmest September on record, and just when we thought think fall was here, it’s gotten warmer again. We’re still holding Bible study outside. And the nights are even worse. This past week I was able to see Mars from my window. And there have been meteor showers all month. And God has scheduled a full moon for Halloween because he felt sorry for what the kids have been through this year. Day after day, I wake up and it’s another beautiful day. There’s no opportunity to just lie in bed and be depressed.
The other day I was at Sayville Bowls and some guy said, “Sure glad we’re done with all that rain!” What rain? It hardly rained, and then the sun came out again. We didn’t even have the chance to enjoy it.
Then there’s the news. I hear that by next year, we’re going to get a vaccine, and all this fun stuff is going to be over. We’re going to have to start hugging and holding hands again, and we won’t be able to avoid our friends and family any more. We might even have to go back to church. And we’re all going to have to think of reasons why we can’t sign up for Coffee Hour again.
And then I hear there’s also another stimulus coming. Before the end of the year, I might get another check in the mail that I didn’t ask for. What am I going to do with all that money? Do I spend it, invest it, put it in the bank? How do I declare it on my taxes? It’s such a headache.
Then I tune in to see how the rest of the world is doing and hardly anyone’s at war because of the pandemic, because nobody wants to spend any money or engage in hand-to-hand combat without sanitizer, so that means the news is boring: no war, just politics. And even that’s going to be over soon because after the election there will be less yelling and I’ll get less mail. And then there’s all these happy stories like how the ozone layer is doing better, or a football player is making a comeback, or a hiker is escaping from a cougar, or some teenager is inspiring people by making handmade masks, or more people are turning to God, and I can’t take watching the news anymore because it’s too cheerful so I get out of my house and go for a walk.
And I can’t get away from it even outside! Because people are smiling at me, and saying hello, and there’s children and dogs everywhere, and even if I play depressing music on my iPod to drown them out there’s all these encouraging signs on lawns, like “We’ll get through this,” or “We’re in this together,” or “Happy birthday Bobby,” or rainbows or happy ghosts. I try to fix my mind on things that are fake and wrong and dour and bad, but there’s no escape from the craziness!
Then there’s race relations. Don’t get me started on race relations. Too late. Every week I’m on a Zoom call with Black people and white people, and the Black people are like, “We love white people!” and the white people are like, “We love Black people!” and everyone is working together for a common cause. And then I talk with police officers and they’re like, “Yeah, we totally want things to get better too!” and I’m trying really hard to be indignant and angry and all this positivity is ruining my mood.
So I try to take solace in history, and I look at things like the pandemic of 1918 and then I read that we got through that. So I look at other things like the Depression and World War II and I notice that we got through those things too. And we survived Duck and Cover and disco and Tom Brady leaving the Patriots and as it turns out, we’ve survived everything! We’ve gotten through everything forever, and we’ve continued to make progress over time, and it’s really discouraging because it’s so hard to be pessimistic.
Then I think about God and that’s when I find it really hard to deal with things the way they are. Because there’s so much grace ~ there’s SO much grace. And everywhere I look there’s another reminder.
For example, now that it’s fall I’m trying to avoid the ocean because it’s such a happy place. So I get up in the morning, intending to stay inside, and God is doing things right outside my window, like giving nuts to the squirrels and puddles to the birds, and changing the color of leaves, and having cute toddlers in strollers roll right past my house. It’s like God is chasing me. Where can I go to flee from his presence?
And then, even when I try to keep to myself, other people keep calling me and emailing me and telling me where they’ve seen God. It’s probably because I’m a minister or something. I keep hearing, “God was at the supermarket where one person was paying for another,” or “God was in the hospital, blessing me while I was recuperating,” or “God was in the thrift shop in a happy interaction with a customer,” and I get nervous because that’s really close, that’s like only a hundred yards away. Why does God keep allowing good things to happen? Why, why, why?
And when I think that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in; that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin. Then sings my soul, “STOP! Stop thinking about such peaceful things! We’re in the middle of a pandemic! You’re supposed to be upset!”
So I think instead of how my cup is overflowing, and who’s going to clean up all that mess? And for a moment I’m good and agitated again, and then Jesus whispers, “Peace be with you,” and I’m like, “Stop that, I’m trying to be depressed!” Then Jesus is like, “No worries! I’m always here for you! I’m right here!” and I’m like, “Can’t a man get any privacy?” So he’s like, “Okay, no problem! I’m going to leave you a big book to read while I go to prepare a place for you in heaven!” Such a Pollyanna.
So anyway, I’m not sure how long I can keep this up. My doctor says, “You’ve got to stop being so optimistic, you’re just going to lower your blood pressure and end up living a long time.” And who needs that? Who wants to live long enough to see us come out of this, to see parties in the streets, celebrations all across the world, a new age of cooperation and empathy? It’s happened before. It’s going to happen again. It’s just God, doing what he’s always done. I guess we’re just going to have to deal with it. It is what it is. Amen.
Please use this time to make out a check to the church.
Thank you to all who have been contributing during this time, and helping the church to pay its bills!
As you write, please enjoy Lee’s version of “Blessed Assurance.”
Thank you, Lord, for filling our senses with your love: the sights, the sounds, the scents, the tastes of grace. We return to you a portion of what you have given; our cups overflow. Amen.
As we go forth, may our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds be open to the blessings around us, and may the Lord of all creation overwhelm us with mercy and love. Amen.
Blest Be the Tie That Binds
Thank you to Kaitlyn and Lee for helping with today’s online service!
And thank you for worshiping with us! We wish you God’s healing and hope!